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Local Investigation Of Pittsfield's Hiring Practices And Claims Of Racism Against Mayor On Hold

Jim Levulis

A local investigation into a discrimination complaint against the city of Pittsfield and Mayor Dan Bianchi is on hold awaiting the findings from state and federal governments regarding the same issue.

At its second meeting since being reactivated by Mayor Bianchi in April, the Pittsfield Human Rights Commission spent nearly 90 minutes gathering more information from Doreen Wade. The Medford resident and Pittsfield native, who is black, came before the commission in May asking it investigate what she calls unfair hiring practices and discrimination. The Monday night meeting came to an abrupt end when Wade informed the volunteer commission members that she had also filed complaints with the state Attorney General’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Wade says she told City Council President Melissa Mazzeo she was doing so. Mazzeo says she knew nothing of the state and federal filings until Wade mentioned them Monday night. Josh Cutler chairs the commission.

“It was a complete surprise to all of us on the commission,” Cutler said. “None of us had heard of any possible investigation so it certainly caught us off-guard.”

The commission unanimously decided to table the item until it learns more from the state and federal government. During the meeting, commissioners asked Wade about claims she made at the last meeting that she had been wrongly denied several city jobs. Commissioner Pam Malumphy questioned Wade about the written complaint which was initially filed March 17 of this year.

“The only position that we saw that you had applied for or had interest in was the affirmative action officer position which wasn’t in fact a position,” Malumphy said. “So it just seems awkward in terms of the timing. Then after the compliant is when you applied for the two positions in cultural development and Mary McGinnis’ job.”

Wade says she had applied for other positions with the school district. Wade also charges Mayor Bianchi has prevented her from moving her business, an online publication called New England Informer, to Pittsfield.

“My complaint was not solely just about a job,” Wade said. “My compliant was about racial remarks. My compliant was about not being able to get jobs. Not being able to get government. Not being able to do any kind of work to make a living in this city.”

Malumphy questioned Wade about a cover letter that was provided to the commission for the creation of the affirmative action officer position within city government. The letter referenced Mayor Gerald Doyle Jr., who left office in 2002.

“It’s a two-page letter,” Malumphy. “In it you reference Mayor Doyle. I’m curious.”

“I’m very curious too,” Wade replied.

“On the first page you talk about the ‘betterment of Pittsfield, Berkshire County, Western Massachusetts joining our illustrious leader Mayor Doyle to our under-served community.’ On the next page you reference him again by saying ‘the unity of the community led by our resilient, respected and influential leader in our Mayor Doyle.”

“That is not part of my original cover letter,” Wade responded. “I do not have it with me, but I will make sure you get it.”

Wade also claims Bianchi made racist comments during an April 2013 meeting the two had in his office concerning her business. Bianchi has denied making those comments. Will Singleton is the president of Berkshire County’s NAACP Chapter. After being contacted by Wade, he arranged a second meeting between the three of them. All three admit that second meeting got heated. Wade says Bianchi got out of his seat and physically intimidated her. Singleton and Bianchi say the mayor remained in his seat and shook his finger at Wade. Commissioner Cecilia Rock questioned Singleton at Monday’s meeting.“In any other meetings that you’ve been in with the mayor, has he made comments that you consider racial or discriminatory?” asked Rock.

“No,” said Singleton.

Singleton and Bianchi were on hand for the entire meeting after being asked to attend by commission members. Bianchi was questioned by Commissioner Susan O’Leary right before the meeting adjourned.

“I assume that you had questions for me relative to this,” said Bianchi.

“Are you aware Mr. Mayor that there is an Attorney General’s investigation?” asked O’Leary.

“I just found out about it a few minutes ago as did you,” replied Bianchi.

“And, were you aware that there was a Department of Justice investigation?” asked O’Leary.

“Just found out about that as did you a few minutes ago,” answered Bianchi.

“I have no further questions,” O’Leary said. “Thank you for coming, Mr. Mayor.”

The commission meets again in July. The date is to be determined.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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